Report: BYU Fans Racially Abused Visiting Women's Soccer Team During 2021 Match

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 30, 2022

NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 02: Brigham Young Cougars logo on the sidelines during the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff - BYU v LSU on SEP 02, 2017 at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA.  LSU Tigers won 27-0.  (Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Five women's soccer players told Nathan Kalman-Lamb and Derek Silva of the Guardian that they heard racist chants coming from BYU's fans during a game in 2021 after the players took a knee during the national anthem in a protest against racial discrimination and police brutality.

"I just remember that there was like a consistent chant of, 'Stand up, N-words' during the anthem and right after," one of the players said. "And when brought to the attention of the BYU coaching staff there was no real response or sense of, like, alarm."

"I felt disappointed but not surprised," she continued. "Backlash for kneeling was not new for our group but to hear that in person was shocking. I think both the fans and coaching staff knew we wouldn't cancel the game after the incident, which once again shows this could be part of a bigger cultural issue within BYU as an institution."

The accusations come in the wake of Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson accusing BYU fans of directing racial slurs and threats at her and her teammates during an August match:

rachel ♡ @rachrich03

<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/morethanavolleyballplayer?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#morethanavolleyballplayer</a> <a href="https://t.co/JJsofA6VgI">pic.twitter.com/JJsofA6VgI</a>

She also said the BYU officials and coaching staff failed to properly address the situation when made aware.

While BYU modified its code of conduct and even briefly banned a fan from future events—that fan was later reinstated after a formal review—the school said it found no evidence of racial slurs nor threats during the August match.

"From our extensive review, we have not found any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event," BYU said in a statement at the time. "As we stated earlier, we would not tolerate any conduct that would make a student-athlete feel unsafe. That is the reason for our immediate response and our thorough investigation."

BYU also denied having any knowledge of racist chanting at the 2021 soccer match in question.

"BYU responded to a concern from the [visiting team] about fan reaction when players knelt during the national anthem. A public announcement, similar to one made earlier, reminding fans to be respectful was repeated, and the game proceeded," associate athletic director for communications and media strategy Jon McBride told Kalman-Lamb and Silva. "We are not aware of any additional concerns being brought up during the game or any time thereafter. As we have stated, BYU will not tolerate racism in any form."

Alongside the five players who said they heard racist remarks coming from the crowd, a sixth player said she had not heard them but said that BYU's coach was informed of the slurs and "seemed shocked and did ask" for another announcement about fan behavior.